Check out our interview with USA Olympic Track Athlete Gabbi Cunningham, who won the bronze medal in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2022 Indoor Championships and is currently gearing up to compete in the Summer 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Gabbi is signed as a Nike athlete and, outside of fitness, enjoys fashion, beauty, and wellness.
Follow Gabbi @its_gabbiii
Hi Gabbi, please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! I am Gabbi Cunningham, and I am an Olympic track and field athlete. I was originally born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Moving away when I was three years old, I grew up most of my life in Charlotte, NC. I am an artsy individual at heart. Singing, dancing, fashion, modeling, make-up, self-care, and shopping are all things that I love outside of being an athlete, of course. I am a big family person as well, so I really enjoy spending time with them.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
I think my parents have been the biggest influence on my life. The way they have created and raised a family. The love and respect that they have for one another in their relationship. The drive they have in their professions. All of which are qualities that I admire so much about them and strive to create for myself in life.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Three words I would use to describe myself are spiritual, creative, and resilient.
What advice have you gotten from other Olympic track athletes? And what advice or tips can you give to other young readers that are looking to follow your steps?
I think I have been very fortunate with the advice I have received from Olympic track athletes. My college coach, Allen Johnson, was an Olympic gold medalist himself back in the 1996 Olympics. I was fortunate to have had him as a mentor throughout my collegiate years and my first few professional years. He taught me the mental focus and perseverance you need to compete at a high level. He also taught me that the separation between you and the next person comes from your ability to master the small details and understand how to do it on your command. That has really stuck with me ever since.
If I could give young readers some advice who want to follow in my footsteps, it would be that your drive to work hard and stay disciplined is key. At times, there may be sacrifices that you must make. It comes with the territory, but it is all worth it in order to accomplish your dreams. Be confident and go after everything you desire. Whether that’s to be an athlete or more, press the limit because it will be so much more rewarding in the end.
Who influenced you and why did you choose to be a track athlete?
When I was in middle school, I had a coach who saw me doing jumps in cheerleading practice and said to me “that I should try out for to the track team and do hurdles”. However, I’d like to say that my brother truly influenced me to stay on track. He did track and field in middle school and high school, so after watching him through the years and seeing him hurdle, it gave me the idea to try it one day. So, I did. It turns out I’m pretty good at it.
Did you always want to be an athlete and an Olympian?
Funny story, I did not always want to be an athlete or an Olympian. I started dancing when I was three. I competed in every genre you could think of until I was about 12 or 13. I also grew up singing, acting in plays and modeling. The arts were my thing. I wanted to go to Julliard and become a professional singer, dancer, and actress. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I stepped away from my art side into the world of track and field. To be completely honest, at first, I did not like running at all but after trying out for the team, winning a few competitions, and talking with my coach, I immediately fell in love with the sport. From that day forward, I wanted to be an Olympian.
Now tell us about the feeling of being a Bronze medal winner in the 60 meters hurdles at the 2022 Indoor Championships? I mean that’s amazing! Big Congrats 🙂
Winning a Bronze medal in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2022 Indoor Championship was an amazing feeling. I was fresh off my Olympic journey in Tokyo and to be able to continue that success was a big accomplishment for me. With it being my first World medal, it gave me the taste of what it feels like and increased my determination to have more.
How are you preparing for the Summer 2024 Olympics in Paris?
Preparing for the Summer 2024 Olympics in Paris is super intense. The preseason training we go through is really important. It is the preparation phase that is needed to set up our entire season. From the endurance training to the technical training each piece is a part of a puzzle, and the goal is for it all to come together in pursuit of gold medal at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Making sure my nutrition and mental health is intact is key as well.
Can you describe the intensity of your training regimen leading up to the Olympics, and how did it differ from your regular season preparation?
As I lead up to the Olympics, I think that the preparation is more intense from what I would call a regular-season race. In years that we don’t have an Olympics, we have had a World Championship, so the training regimen is always intense. However, the closer we get to Olympic trails and the Olympics, the more I become extremely locked in on making sure I am mentally and physically ready.
The pressure at the Olympics is unparalleled. How do you mentally prepare yourself for such a grand stage, and are there any specific routines or practices you follow to stay focused?
To mentally prepare myself for such a grand stage, I focus on what I can control. This helps me limit the number of outside factors that could potentially disrupt me. I have also incorporated listening to motivational videos and podcasts, such as videos from Kobe Bryant. As it gets closer to time, I disconnect from social media to allow myself to focus on the task at hand. While doing so I read books to keep me mentally sharp. The last time I read the whole “Mamba Mentality” book, and to this day I feel as if that was a key practice in my last Olympic journey to Tokyo. Outside of the track and field world, Kobe Bryant is someone who has inspired me as an athlete.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in the world of track and field? And how do you hope to inspire the next generation of athletes with your performance at the Olympics?
My biggest inspiration in the world of track and field has been Gail Devers. She showed me what placing no limit on yourself truly means. She competed in and won on a world stage the 100m hurdles and 100m sprint. Two events that I have grown up competing in since I started track and field. I aspire to be like her. She pushed the limit by competing in multiple events. Cementing herself in the history books.
My hope with my performance at the Olympics is to show the next generation that no matter your journey there is no limit. I want to leave a legacy that inspires athletes to be so much more than the limits that society places on them. You’re not just an athlete, you’re so much more than that. There is no limit! Whether that be in sport or outside of it. Whatever you desire, push the limit.
How is your recovery process after a big competition?
After a big competition I immediately start my recovery process. The first 30 minutes after a race I am doing a cool down run and getting a light massage from my physical therapist. Finally, I refuel myself and get a good night’s rest to give my body what it needs to fully recover.
Please describe a typical day for you. What is your daily routine like?
A typical day for me starts with me cooking my daily breakfast, which consists of 3 eggs and a few pieces of turkey bacon. From there, I prepare and head to practice a little early to do some pre-practice treatment. Usually, I get in the hot tub and do some exercises to loosen up before I get my warmup and workout started. When practice is finished, I am focused on refueling and recovery. I pick up an acai bowl or a salad, take a shower, and head to physical therapy. I end my day by cooking a nice dinner. Some variations of chicken, fish, vegetables, and some types of carbs. I settle down by watching some TV and going to sleep to prepare for the next day.
Now tell us about your partnership with Nike?
I was always the athlete who had to have matching Nike outfits and shoes growing up. I would watch my idols have their own spikes with their names on them and tell myself “that would be me one day”. When I was afforded the opportunity to partner with Nike, it was a dream come true. We get so much gear; I have a whole closet full of just Nike stuff. Having my own spike with my name on it would be another dream come true!
How would you explain your fashion style and what items in your closet you cannot be without?
I would describe my fashion style as diverse. I don’t have one set style or go-to that I frequent. Sometimes I like street clothing with baggy pants, baggy tops, and sneakers. Other days, I feel like I want to pop out in a dress, a matching set, and some heels. I might even combine the two looks together. It just depends on how I feel that day.
I love my closets. My family always jokes with me about me needing to have a closet bigger than my bedroom. It’s probably true, but I love my wardrobe. I don’t think I could be without my shoe collection, purse collection, or Olympic rings necklace.
What advice would you give to your younger self, and why?
I would tell my younger self to give myself more grace on my journey. At certain times, I can admit I have been overly critical of myself, and yes, I believe it’s okay to do some of this, but you also must celebrate your small wins and be proud even when you desire to accomplish more.
Which project is still on your bucket list?
This is so hard because I have a few projects still on my bucket list that I would like to complete. I think if I could name one in this moment, it would be to be on the masked singer.
What are your makeup bag staples when traveling?
I love doing my make-up, especially for a competition or event, so it is the first thing I pack. A few must-haves include my Fenty Beauty products, which consist of probably every lipstick and gloss she has released. I use the Fenty eyeliner and concealer as well. I am a big eyeshadow girl, so I have my go-to eyeshadow palettes that consist of brands such as Morphe, Juvia’s Place, and Pat McGrath Labs. As well as my go-to mascara from Too Faced.
What’s next for Gabbi Cunningham in the last months of 2023 and for 2024?
In the last months of 2023, it’s all about preparation for 2024. Especially Paris 2024 Olympics. I am fully into my fall training. We are working on building up a base so that I can be strong throughout my whole season. As we enter 2024, I will be starting my indoor track and field season, which I am really excited about! There’s an Indoor World Championship this year as well over in Glasgow. That should be fun! This is all part of a plan that will lead into the Paris Olympics in August.
Where can our readers follow you?